Jean Louis Forain

(Reims 1852-1931 Paris)

Jean-Louis Forain was born on October 23, 1852 in Reims as the son of an ornamental sign painter. The family moved to Paris in 1860 where he took drawing lessons from Jacquesson de la Chevreuse. Later he worked for the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, until he was thrown out of the studio for ostensibly damaging a sculpture. He then enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts, studying under Jean-Léon Gérôme.

Forain joined the impressionist circle by the end of the 1870s. He participated in four of the eight impressionist exhibitions. Influenced by their theories of light and color, he depicts scenes of everyday life: his watercolors, pastels and paintings focus on Parisian popular entertainments, like the racetrack, the ballet, the comic opera and bustling cafés. Forain was also one of the best known cartoonists of his time, working for Le Figaro for more than 30 years. In his later years, Forain created numerous scenes of the Law Courts and other Parisian institutions.

Forain shared his interest in dancers with his friend Edgar Degas. Since the beginning of his career, he often used to go to the Opéra, not only to study bodies in movement, but also to understand the varied effects of stage lights. Many of his paintings show the dancers after the show, when they are met backstage or in the dressing rooms by their patrons, the opera-goers who maintain them and no doubt sometimes take advantage of them.  In this painting (Danseuses) Forain concentrates on the performance of the three girls and on the rays of the spotlights that seem to come from above and reflect on the shiny ornaments in their hair. It was probably painted in the 1880s, like most of his works with this subject.